'How does he move on?': Mother of paralyzed Highland Park shooting victim speaks out
As 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, paralyzed from the waist down in the Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting, continues to recover, his mother on Wednesday made her first public comments since the tragedy.
Keely Roberts, who was shot twice in the leg and foot, gave thanks for the outpouring of support her family has received in the last three weeks, from the bystanders who helped them in the moments after the shooting to the medical personnel continuing to care for Cooper at Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago.
Roberts, superintendent at Zion Elementary School District 6, said Cooper was shot in the back and the bullet exited his chest, causing damage to his aorta, liver, esophagus and spinal cord, which was severed. She said Cooper remains in a pediatric intensive care unit, but there's hope he'll soon be transferred to Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago.
In written and video statements, Roberts described what Cooper and his family are going through.
"I am so incredibly sad for Cooper and what he faces on the road ahead," she said. "He is athletic and fun-loving, and never met a person who wasn't an instant friend. How does he move on?
"But I want to be clear," she said. "What our family has learned from this horrible event is not hate. Instead, we have learned to see the unbelievably generous, caring, good and kind spirit that makes up the vast majority of our world."
Roberts said that while Highland Park Hospital saved Cooper's life -- "they fixed an unfixable wound" -- the team at Comer Children's Hospital "has given him his life back."
Roberts was at the parade with her husband, Jason, and their twin boys, Cooper and Luke. Seven people were killed and dozens wounded, including Luke, who was hit by shrapnel.
Roberts said what Luke "has to carry is devastating." According to Roberts, after the shooting Luke had to hold a tourniquet on his mother's leg while he watched his brother's lips turn gray from the injuries he sustained.
Roberts did not provide information on Cooper's current condition, other than to say Cooper will require another heart surgery at some point. Last week, family spokesman Anthony Loizzi said Cooper enjoyed his first liquid by mouth -- an orange Popsicle -- and took his first wheelchair ride outside.
A GoFundMe online fundraiser at gofundme.com/f/kxwjn-the-roberts-family-fundraiser has raised nearly $1.7 million of a $2 million goal to help pay for Cooper's medical care and future needs.
Roberts said despite the long road ahead for Cooper, she firmly believes her son "is destined for great things." She said Cooper has been asking if he'll walk again, and she's been honest in the assessment that they don't know what kind of mobility he will have.
As for the family's future, Roberts said while their lives never will be the same, her role as a mother endures.
"As a mom, you think you could never live or deal with something like this if it happened to you," she said. "But you just do.
"When your children need you, you just do whatever it takes to help them and give them what they need -- comfort, love and hope."